A Manchester-based startup using AI and data to help retail merchandising teams make better stock buying and pricing decisions has raised £1.5 million.
Sparkbox’s solution, which is trusted by River Island and Matchesfashion.com, enables retailers to forecast demand, optimise their pricing and promotions and plan inventory to reduce waste and the need for big discounts.
Launched in 2019, Sparkbox says a recent trial with a £500m+ fashion retailer saw it improve cash margin on markdowns by 34%, paying back its client’s investment in just 34 days.
In addition to protecting retailers from profit losses, Sparkbox’s approach to data also has the potential to aid brand sustainability goals by preventing retailers from over ordering stock, with wide reports that fashion alone is responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions.
Sparkbox will use Praetura Ventures’ investment to double its team and onboard further fashion, home and seasonal retailers, where deadstock is a constant challenge across the board.
The company was co-founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 inductees Lindsay Fisher and Matthew Wong, and Kevin Blackmore, who prior to Sparkbox was vice president of customer insights at Best Buy and a retail analytics partner at Accenture.
The team started Sparkbox after seeing an opportunity to innovate in a sector that still relies heavily on spreadsheets, guess work and gut feelings to make important commercial decisions.
Colin Greene, an operational partner at Praetura – formerly Apple’s director of US consumer retail – will join Sparkbox’s board.
“Sparkbox’s approach to inventory optimisation has the power to bring about massive changes in fashion and home retail, which is clearly behind the times when it comes to technology adoption within merchandising,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to working with the team and sharing some of the lessons I’ve learnt from my time at Apple and the other tech businesses I’ve been lucky to work closely with over the years.”
Sparkbox has been selected for Enterprise City’s second startup exchange programme at Department Bonded Warehouse, which is supported by Praetura.
A graduate of the Google for Startups UK immersion program, the company is also a current member of Tech Nation’s Applied AI 3.0 cohort and has previously been recognised as a Tech Nation Rising Star.
Fisher said: “As a team of former retailers, we’ve seen first-hand how the retail industry is advancing in many areas but falling behind when it comes to making data-driven decisions.
“We know how much potential there is for AI and machine learning to improve profits and reduce waste in retail, and we are thrilled to have Prateura join us on our mission to modernise merchandising and put data behind the important pricing and inventory decisions our users make every day.”